Ontario is the latest municipality to allow transgender and gender nonconforming people to apply for gender-neutral birth certificates.
As the Canadian province announced Monday, trans individuals will have two options: to apply for a nonbinary “X” (instead of the traditional “M” and “F”) or to have a gender designation removed entirely. The change is intended to “recognize and respect all transgender and nonbinary people in Ontario and give all Ontarians access to identification that matches their gender identity,” officials say.
The policy was announced after genderqueer filmmaker Joshua M. Fergusonwho uses “they” pronounsrequested a gender-neutral birth certificate in May 2017.
When their application stalled, Ferguson filed a complaint through the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario claiming their civil rights were being violated. The parties reached resolution last month, and the 35-year-old finally received corrected documents in the mail last week.
Ferguson claimed the milestone doesn’t just recognize their year-long struggle to have their identity affirmed. For trans people subject to frequent discrimination due to misgendering, the policy could also “save lives.”
“A birth certificate is the most vital form of ID for personhood,” they said in a statement. “Being officially counted and recognized is empowering.”
Ferguson is the second Canadian to be issued a nonbinary certificate following Gemma Hickey of St. Johns. The province of Newfoundland and Labrador announced in December 2017 that Hickey, who runs a local nonprofit for survivors of sexual abuse in religious institutions, would be permitted to list “X” on their birth documents.
Hickey claimed at the time that their home province had proven itself “a leader in terms of human rights.”
Although the Canadian government has yet to rollout a nonbinary marker on birth certificates, authorities have claimed federal agencies are working toward a third option on passports. Ontario, meanwhile, allows a gender-neutral designation on driver’s licenses and health ID cards as of last year.
To date, just three states in the U.S.along with the District of Columbiaallow nonbinary options for residents on identity documents: California, Oregon, and Washington.
Research shows these updates can have profound impacts on the lives and wellbeing of trans individuals. When interviewed about a landmark trans birth certificate bill in Colorado earlier this year, National Center for Trans Equality spokesperson Jay Wu said that trans people who show documents which don’t match their gender identity are often “verbally harassed, denied benefits or service, asked to leave, or assaulted.”
Ferguson called Ontario’s decision to join the growing list of states and municipalities fighting to ensure trans identities are respected a “victory for our community.”
“This moment not only reaffirms who we are, and our protection under the law in Ontario and in Canada, but it’s a relief because we are counted,” they told the CBC earlier this week. “That’s quite an incredible feeling, because it makes it clear that we exist.”
Ferguson hoped the news encourages other provinces in Canada to follow suit.
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